Antebellum directors and stars share how they approached making the intense film
Warning: This video contains spoilers for the new film Antebellum, out Friday.
When filmmakers Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz set out to make Antebellum, they wanted to depict a character that could be seen as a Black female superhero — but not the kinds of heroes that beam in from other galaxies to save the world. "To us, it is crucial that we move from the distraction of bringing move audiences into the idea that a superhero from another planet is coming to save all of us," explains Bush. "It is only us who are going to save humanity."
In the latest installment of EW's Around the Table series, Bush and Renz were joined by the film's cast, including Janelle Monáe (our newest digital cover star), Gabourey Sidibe, Jena Malone, Jack Huston, Lily Cowles, and Tongayi Chirisa, to share how they approached making the intense film.
While the film starts with Monáe playing an enslaved person named Eden being punished for trying to escape the Civil War-era plantation setting, it steadily reveals that everything is not what it seems. "Once I go to that twist, I was like 'I have to finish this, and I have to finish this right now,'" shares the star, explaining how Bush and Renz's script won her over. "I saw so many Black women embedded in this character," she adds before giving Maxine Waters, Brittany Packnett, Angela Rye, and Angela Davis, Black women she describe as heroic, as examples.
"I saw all of these pillars in our Black community, and the thing that I always want to do is honor Black women, and Black women's voices, and make sure that I'm humanizing Black women onscreen," states Monáe. "And I thought this was a great opportunity to continue the conversation of what it's like to be a Black woman that has to carry the load of dismantling white supremacy every single day."
Sidibe was drawn to the film because of how the script invoked the feeling she'd had standing in a slave castle during a recent trip to Ghana: "The dehumanization of this cave is where they want us to be. And it all still stands because it was supposed to still stand, because that's where I'm supposed to be, I'm still supposed to be enslaved."
"I felt like, 'Oh no, this is not that far away, this is not that long ago,'" she expresses. Giving a peek at how her character relates to Monáe's, Sidibe says, "Dawn is today, whereas Eden was yesterday, but if we're not careful, Eden is also tomorrow."
To hear more about how Antebellum came to be, and why cast members like Huston joined the film, watch the full Around The Table video above.
After initially being slated for a theatrical bow in April, the film's release plans changed due to the coronavirus pandemic and is now opening this Friday on VOD.